UCCE positions recruitment hindered by budget constraints
Over the course of the past 11 months, UC ANR has undertaken a position call process to identify the priority UCCE advisor and UCCE specialist position needs to support the work of the division. After a great deal of work, 46 positions were identified by the UC ANR Program Council and divided into three categories (highest, high, and can wait). Although we will utilize this categorization to the degree possible, the reality is that we need each and every one of those positions to serve our mission – all 46 positions are high priority to me. Furthermore, there are additional positions needed that were not on the list of 46 positions but are important gaps that have arisen over the course of the year. This includes three CE advisor positions vacated within two years of hire and not re-opened for recruitment.
Despite that, and unlike past years, we will not be releasing a list of approved positions at this time. The current budget situation leaves us unable to recruit immediately for positions reviewed during the 2018 process. All positions will remain under consideration based on funding availability, including the opportunity to find funding partners to share position costs.
This difficult decision is part of a larger effort to manage a challenging financial situation that also includes reductions to statewide programs and less subsidy for research at our RECs. UC ANR has managed the past several years of budget cuts and unfunded obligations through judicious use of our reserves, increases to program fees, fundraising and excellent work by our academics to increase the capture of competitive grants. While those options allow us to maintain a strong program and continue to deliver our research and extension mission, sound fiscal management does not allow us to expand academic positions in the immediate future.
2019 recruitment depends on budget and partners
Having said that, it is my sincere intent to recruit for a small number of these 2018 positions during the 2019 calendar year. As the FY19/20 budget unfolds, we will closely watch retirement announcements, the impact of those retirements on critical gaps in service, and any other items that might affect the budget available for recruiting. In addition, we will actively seek opportunities to partner with various entities to jointly fund positions as a key strategy to maintain or, preferably, increase our academic numbers. As a result, the order of recruitments may vary from the categorized list provided to me and we may also need to re-evaluate whether priorities have changed along the way.
More 2016 positions to be filled
Our academic numbers remain steady, not growing at a rate we wish to see, but steady nonetheless. This is in large part because academic HR, search committees, vice provosts, and campus departments have worked very hard over the last two years to recruit talent and fill positions identified during the 2014 and 2016 position call processes. All of the positions approved during the 2014 call have been filled; you might recall that at the time that the 2016 positions were approved, 25 of the positions approved in 2014 were still vacant. All but three of the 26 positions approved in the 2016 position call process are filled or under recruitment. The remaining positions (two CE advisor and one CE specialist positions) will be released for recruitment very soon. Additionally, the three FTE that were reserved for partnership opportunities have resulted in six new academics: three CE advisor positions filled, one CE advisor position under recruitment, and two CE specialist positions under recruitment. This valuable tool allows us to jointly fund positions with external partners as well as other parts of the UC system; we will be exploring how best to expand and leverage this moving forward.
Recruitment and retention of top talent a priority
Recruitment and retention of top talent is a crucial strategic objective. Toward that end, I recently announced approval of year two of a four-year salary equity plan for CE advisors that will bring their salaries into market norms. Offering competitive salaries to our academics and staff is of highest priority to me and the entire UC ANR leadership. Despite our budget challenges, we are pleased to be able to continue with this extremely important plan to improve academic salaries that had failed to keep pace with increased cost of living and academic norms for many years.
While the current budget situation for UC ANR is reminiscent of similar scenarios in the past, it is a strong wake-up call on the need to find new ways to fund our mission. State and federal support for the land grant mission has decreased or, at best, remained flat for the past few decades. UC ANR, the national Cooperative Extension system, the Agriculture Experiment Station system, and public research institutions in general, are at a crossroads – we must develop better ways to fund our mission, deliver our programs and leverage partnerships. This will include deployment of different business models. UC ANR is actively doing just that, while adapting to change along the way. I am confident that by remaining mission-focused we will grow stronger, more impactful, and more relevant to California and beyond.
To answer questions about the positions process, VP Humiston held a town hall on Nov. 29. A recording of the 30-minute town hall is at http://bit.ly/2BGvO73.